90s Jersey House

It’s all about the retro 909 grooves in our latest step-by-step drum programming walkthrough, which focuses on classic 90s New York and New Jersey house vibes.

Beat Dissected is a regular series which deconstructs drum patterns, showing you how to program them in any DAW. Just copy the grids in your own software to recreate the loop.

Here’s the complete beat we’ll be making this week:

  • SPEC

  • tempo

    120—125bpm
  • swing

    70—80%
  • sounds

    Mainly TR-909 samples

Step 1

Start with a stock 909 kick playing a basic four-to-the-flour pattern. Add an additional off-beat kick in the second bar to propel the rhythm forward.

Sound-wise, keep it simple. Although it’s worth using a high quality 909 sample (or, of course, the real thing), there’s no need to layer the sound or give it anything but the most subtle compression and EQ.

Tune the kick to fit your track. In this example we’ve dialed it down by a couple of semitones and also added some gentle compression using an 1176 emulation plugin to subtly bring out its attack transient.

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Step 2

The clap is really important to this beat – it’s a mid-heavy, papery sound which we’ve treated to a little lo-fi reverb (don’t choose anything too clean and modern) to lengthen the tail and give it a lift in the mix.

The main clap hits on the second and fourth beat of the bar, as in so many other house grooves. You can see from the grid that in this case we’ve also nudged the clap to trigger before the kick by a few milliseconds in order to bring out the sound’s definition and impact. On the fourth beat of the second bar, the clap is pulled forward even more – delivering the characteristic ‘jack’. Play around with this hit’s precise placement – moving it by very small amounts can significantly alter the momentum of the groove.

Additional movement is bestowed by a sneaky snare hit after the first kick of each bar. In this case, it’s a white noise sample that’s had its high end rolled away liberally so as not to interfere with the clap.

2


Step 3

An easy step: simply add open 909 hi-hats to the offbeat. As in Step 1, a good standard 909 sample should require only minimal tweaking. The key thing is to ensure that the length of the sound is just right to ease into the clap without obscuring it. Adjust the sample’s envelope to strike the right balance or set up a mute group if you prefer. For a looser feel, you could also try taming the sample’s attack.

You may also want to roll away some of the higher frequencies at this point. Despite the emphasis on swinging hi-hats, many 90s garage beats have quite a muddy sound. We don’t want anything too crisp, clear and hi-fi here.

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Step 4

Additional detail comes courtesy of a few carefully placed closed 909 hats. Note the different velocities used – with darker red indicating higher velocities. These kind of subtle variations are absolutely crucial to get the swing and groove of the beat just right.

4


Step 5

The final element is a second low-level clap sample added to the second bar. This is an optional variation – it can add a level of depth during certain sections of a track.

If you’re looking for a turnaround variation at the end of a 16/32-bar section, don’t try to be too subtle – a liberal sprinkling of crash cymbals should do the job nicely.

For a final finishing touch, bus the whole beat to a subtle tape emulation plugin, a Vintage Warmer-style saturation effect and/or an SSL-modelled compressor plugin, shaving off just a couple of decibels to help all the elements gel together nicely.

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  • Date: 6th February 2013
  • Edward Wrote:

    Great as always…but is there some reason that more than 50% of beats dissected are subtypes of House? There are plenty of beats interesting beats in the goa/psy trance subgenre, for example, or in gabber/hardcore, or in DnB/jungle…

  • thegoatboy Wrote:

    I agree. Can we get some more goa trance type tutorials?

  • discodancer Wrote:

    mmmmm gabba!

  • agent0047 Wrote:

    Personally, I’m lovin’ these house beats…nothin like understanding the classics

  • blood Wrote:

    Woah woah woah! I’ve been loving these tutorials so far but if you start doing gabba and fucking goa trance I might have to change my mind! ;)

  • G Wrote:

    Could you go into a bit more detail on the clap? It doesn’t sound like a 909 clap I’ve heard and seems to cut through the mix way better than any of my attempts. Cheers and thanks for the article.

  • Matt Wrote:

    yes loving the house beat tutorials here too, lots of subtle nuances that make all the difference to the beats.

    Keep them coming!!!

  • Attack Wrote:

    Hi G

    You’re right – the clap isn’t from a 909. It’s sampled from a Boss DR-202, but there’s a little more to it than that. From the producer…

    “It’s from a very underrated drum machine – the Boss DR-202. But more importantly that that, I’d like to emphasise that you won’t find the clap sounding like that in the drum machine.

    The clap took hours (literally) of crafting, pitching, sampling, resampling, running through certain analogue gear/samplers and getting the reverb to fit just right…”

    We’re working on a very big feature at the moment which will explain some of the finer points of selecting samples and processing them to fit into your beats. Stay tuned for further info…

    Thanks

    Attack

  • uku Wrote:

    He how do you get that claps milliseconds before the full seconds I can’t make it happen?

  • David Felton Wrote:

    Which DAW do you use, uku?

  • yugen Wrote:

    uku, you can option+drag the note or turn off the grid and nudge it.

  • Nick Wrote:

    In a future beat dissected can we have more tips on programming percussion and injecting life into the loop. It can be difficult to get percs sounding natural and alive

  • Attack Wrote:

    Hi Nick. We’ll definitely be taking a look at some beats featuring prominent percussion parts in the future. Thanks.

  • Dan Wray Wrote:

    I love this style of beat, Its definitely one of the classics. & Great for a starting point.

  • uku Wrote:

    Thanks yugen I made it work :D

  • Jackedjack Wrote:

    Thank you guys! Your tutorials are amazing. Keep ut the good work!

  • Jamari Wrote:

    Thanks for this, being from NJ it brings back some memories. BTW for those interested this tutorial comes off smoothly if you’re using NI Maschine, especially if you apply swing to individual kit sounds.

  • Tony Wrote:

    amazing. so could you make a tutorial explaining how to choose samples and processing them to fit in a beat? atm the best i have is sampling from others’ records. works great but would like to know how to build my own kick, snare clap hihat to sound oldchool, gritty. i have oldschool samplers. probably i should add some distortion, comp, tape etc

    if these guys did it on their records we should be able to as well

  • Attack Wrote:

    Tony – Check out the latest Beat Dissected – http://www.attackmagazine.com/technique/beat-dissected/motor-city-detroit-techno/ – where we talk in depth about treating the raw sounds using hard and software. We’ll be doing more of this kind of in-depth sound design Beat Dissected in future.